Download Festival, Melbourne
After last year successful first edition and a Sydney debut over the weekend, Melbourne’s metal fans were ready for the next chapter of Download Festival on Labour Day. Despite Ozzy Osbourne’s cancellation, more than 20,000 punters arrived bright and early to enjoy a day long eclectic mix of metal, rock, grunge and punk.
All the way from Perth Voyager kicked off the action at the Red Stage, their track Ascension dedicated to everyone who woke up early to witness the set of the prog rockers.
LA rockers New Years Day get the head-banging started at the Avalanche stage. Singer Ash Costello reminds us to support females in the rock scene “We can do the same things guys do, but look so much better on the stage!”
UK Slaves bring their hectic energy and zero fucks attitude. Their brutal performance is one of the early highlights and makes everybody wish for their next visit and a longer set.
At the Dogtooth stage Shawna Potter shouts at the audience “We are War on Women from Baltimore, sorry for Trump”. The feminist punk band deliver a powerful set, their critical gaze on politics, discrimination, rape, abortion and fascism make the crowd question the times we live in. “Vote for progressive people, that care about everybody!” Tackling injustice one song at a time fearless Potter and company demonstrate that music and activism is a much needed combination in today’s society. Support this band. Period.
Local newcomers A beautiful Moment perform to a growing crowd at the Ascension stage. Displaying a strong stage presence the female quintet seems ready to take their game to the next level.
Back to Dogtooth where High Tension lead singer Karina Utomo wreaks absolute havoc with her piercing vocals and power. An extreme set that inevitably will make you feel all the rage of the world.
Polish black metal legends of blasphemy Behemoth delight the day with their enigmatic stage presence and brutality. Black robes, paint, and blood covered faces are the antics for icon Nergal who admires the moment of “pure magic, free-thinking music worshiping people”.
Anthrax take over the Black stage. Led by Joey Belladonna and iconic guitarist Scott Ian, the band reminds us why they are part of “The big four of Thrash metal”. Despite a short set, classic tracks “Caught in a Mosh”, “I am the Law” and “Indians” got the crowd frenetic and more than satisfied.
Chicago’s melodic hard-corers Rise Against make sure that the black stage chants in unison their politically charged anthems “Prayer of the Refugee” and “Savior” before welcoming guests Shawna Potter (War on women) and Spike Slawson (Me First and the Gimme Gimmes) for renditions of Black Flag and Misfits tracks.
Time to travel back to the grunge sound of the 90’s with the performance of Alice in Chains. A 75 minute nostalgia driven set comprising new and classic tracks which showcase the solid combination of DuVall’s vocals and Cantrell’s gloomy riffs. “Man in the Box”, “Would?”, and “Rooster” bid farewell to the Seattle legends and set up perfectly the tone for the headlining acts at Flemington Racecourse.
War pigson the sound system is the perfect intro to gather the biggest crowd so far and welcome the metal gods Judas Priest to the Black Stage. 50 years after they emerged, Download festival is now witness of their old-school arsenal of tunes. Leather-clad Rob Halford screams for opening track “Firepower” and shows us why Judas continues to be one of the most powerful acts of the metal scene. “Turbo Lover”, “Painkiller” and closing set “Breaking the Law” built momentum as the night fell upon the audience along with the presence of Slayer.
The Californian Thrash legends started their set at full-throttle, the wild crushing riffs of “Repentless “sounding as loud as anything the punters had experienced all-day long. Slayer’s spectacular performance at Download as part of their final tour made it extra special for the fans who head-banged and screamed to the compass of “Raining Blood”, “South of Heaven”, and “Angel Of Death”; knowing that an era came to an end.
Cardinal Copia and his nameless ghouls offered an impressive performance reminiscent of theater and rock opera. Swedish cult band Ghost split the crowd and attracted a big congregation to their eerie altar inside the Avalanche Stage, where pyrotechnics, rainbow coloured lights, Copia’s hypnotic movements, and the appearance of Papa Nihil playing the saxophone entertained everyone. Dance Macabre and Square Hammer put the crowd to dance with death, and eager for an encore. To which Ghost’s spiritual leader kindly answered “Sorry we’ve been told to fuck-off, thanks for a lovely evening.”
After experiencing Ghost’s live performance it’s easy to understand why they are one of the most celebrated acts nowadays, their eclectic pop-metal sound matches perfectly their enigmatic visuals and theatrics. For many the top performance of Download 2019.
On it’s second year Download festival looks like it’s going nowhere. An epic and well-organised experience that will just get better and better in Australia. Can’t wait for 2020.
Words by Gus Morainslie
Behind the lens Amanda Lee Starkey